Tech – for Everyone

Tech Tips and Tricks & Advice – written in plain English.

How To Repair the Windows Recycle bin

If you have troubles with your Recycle Bin functioning correctly – preventing you from deleting files (aka “empty”-ing it) – a few simple steps can restore functionality (or a missing icon).

Is the Recycle Bin (Icon) Missing?
This first “repair” is for those of you who no longer see the Recycle Bin icon on your Desktop, and want it back.

  • Click your Start button, and Control Panel
  • Double-click on Personalizations
  • Click on Change desktop icons
  • Click (to place a ‘check’ in) the Recycle Bin checkbox
  • Click Apply, then OK

That will restore the icon to your Desktop. (You can “drag” it to a position of your liking.)

Having trouble with emptying?

1) First, you need to “unhide” (aka “show”) your system files and folders (if they aren’t already. If so, skip to Step 2).

  • Click your Start button, and Control Panel
  • Double-click on Folder Options
  • Click on the View tab and scroll down just a bit
  • Click on the Show radio button
  • Click Apply, then OK

2) Next, Click your Start button, and Computer.

3) Double-click the Local disk (c:) icon.

4) Locate, then right-click on $RECYCLE.BIN, and select Delete. If prompted, click Yes to confirm. (Yes. Delete it. It has been “corrupted”, in Geek parlance, and needs to go away.)

5) The Delete File dialog will appear – click Yes to confirm.

[ Tip: Checking the Do this for all current items checkbox will avoid having to confirm the deletion of each file.]

6) Reboot (aka “restart”) your computer.

Once your computer has started back up, the Recycle Bin will automatically be rebuilt/repaired.

That’s it. You’re done. (Except, maybe, [say, if other people use your computer] you may want to go back to Step 1 and hide the system files and folders again.. to prevent any accidental disastrous deleting.. Your choice.)

Orig post: April 26, 2011

Today’s quote:The real problem is not whether machines think but whether men do.” ~ B.F. Skinner

January 19, 2012 Posted by | advice, computers, how to, tech, troubleshooting | | 2 Comments

Repair The Recycle Bin

If you have troubles with your Recycle Bin functioning correctly – preventing you from deleting files (aka “empty”-ing it) – a few simple steps can restore functionality (or a missing icon).

Is the Recycle Bin (Icon) Missing?
This first “repair” is for those of you who no longer see the Recycle Bin icon on your Desktop, and want it back.

  • Click your Start button, and Control Panel
  • Double-click on Personalizations
  • Click on Change desktop icons
  • Click (to place a ‘check’ in) the Recycle Bin checkbox
  • Click Apply, then OK

That will restore the icon to your Desktop. (You can “drag” it to a position of your liking.)

Having trouble with emptying?

1) First, you need to “unhide” (aka “show”) your system files and folders (if they aren’t already. If so, skip to Step 2).

  • Click your Start button, and Control Panel
  • Double-click on Folder Options
  • Click on the View tab and scroll down just a bit
  • Click on the Show radio button
  • Click Apply, then OK

2) Next, Click your Start button, and Computer.

3) Double-click the Local disk (c:) icon.

4) Locate, then right-click on $RECYCLE.BIN, and select Delete. If prompted, click Yes to confirm. (Yes. Delete it. It has been “corrupted”, in Geek parlance, and needs to go away.)

5) The Delete File dialog will appear – click Yes to confirm.

[ Tip: Checking the Do this for all current items checkbox will avoid having to confirm the deletion of each file.]

6) Reboot (aka “restart”) your computer.

Once your computer has started back up, the Recycle Bin will automatically be rebuilt/repaired.

That’s it. You’re done. (Except, maybe, [say, if other people use your computer] you may want to go back to Step 1 and hide the system files and folders again.. to prevent any accidental disastrous deleting.. Your choice.)

Today’s reading/download reco(s):

* An Instant Data and System Recovery Kit

“If you have been a long term computer user I am sure somewhere along the line you may have experienced a failure of sorts; whether it be from operating system errors, a mistake you made, a malware attack or from good old file corruption. I have always said that computers were made to fail; and, fail they eventually will.”  Read more

* iPhone tracking only part of Apple’s security and privacy shortcomings

“The revelation by a pair of researchers that iPhones store location data for the life of the device is making waves. How much does it really matter? Chad Perrin suggests the problem goes deeper.” Read more

* IE9 versus Chrome: which one blocks malware better?

Social engineering has become the dominant method of distribution for fake antivirus software these days. Google Chrome puts you at risk: in my testing, malware broke through Chrome’s defenses.READ FULL STORY

Your “feedback” is requested: (Thanks to all who have participated!)

(Voting is following my prediction…)

Copyright 2007-2011 © “Tech Paul” (Paul Eckstrom). All Rights Reserved.


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April 26, 2011 Posted by | advice, computers, how to, Microsoft, PC, software, tech, troubleshooting, Vista, Windows, Windows 7 | , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Old computer ….

One or two of you might get a kick out of these pictures

The other day I got a call asking me to pick up some “old computers and stuff” for secure data deletion and green recycling (see, Proper Disposal of Old Computer Gear– eWaste). When I got there, I learned what she meant by “old”.. I would have said “prehistoric”!

This unit dates back to the first PC’s.. circa 1990 (actually, toward the end of the first gen era, as it actually has a hard drive [800KHz, 1 MB of RAM, and a 20 MB HHD. That’s right. “Kilo” and “Mega”]) and is a fully working Macintosh SE.

“Welcome to Macintosh”

welcome_to_macintosh

and roughly two minutes later…

orig_mac2

I did shred the user’s data, but this is the unit that basically completes my Apple wing at the Tech Paul Museum. (And it has a darts game that’s kind addicting..)

This Mac SE is easily the oldest unit I’ve ever been asked to recycle. (For those wondering, yes – I plugged it in and it booted right up.)(And no, it’s not the oldest Apple Desktop PC in my museum.)

Remember folks, simply deleting something by dragging it to the Trash (or, Recycle Bin) does not really erase your files. If you want something gone gone, (aka “unrecoverable”) you need to actually write over them (several times) using a “secure delete” tool, such as can be found in Apple’s Disk Utility, or physically destroy the drive.

Today’s quote:If we listened to our intellect, we’d never have a love affair. We’d never have a friendship. We’d never go into business, because we’d be cynical. Well, that’s nonsense. You’ve got to jump off cliffs all the time and build your wings on the way down.” ~ Ray Bradbury

Copyright 2007-2013 © “Tech Paul” (Paul Eckstrom). All Rights Reserved.


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All we really have, in the end, are our stories.
Make yours great ones. Ones to be proud of.

October 5, 2013 Posted by | Apple, computers, tech | , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Customize Your Shortcuts “Sidebar”

Whenever you Open, or Save, a file in Windows, a standard ‘dialog box’ appears, which shows ‘shortcut’ locations on the left “sidebar”. You can easily customize these locations to add or remove folders to best suit your personal usage habits.

For example, I never use the “Public” folder, nor do I do music on my PC (other than listen to Spotify), and I cannot recall ever, in decades of using a computer, wanting to Save As something to my recent searches list — why have those in my sidebar?
I do however, have certain ‘go to’ locations I would like see listed..

Here is the how-to tutorial for customizing the shortcuts:

1. Open a dialog box (either a Save As or Open dialog will work).
2. Right click on some white space in the locations on the left pane and select Open Favorite Links Folder. (or navigate to: “C:\Users\your User name\Links”.)

You will now see the “default” shortcuts listed (these are ‘shortcuts to’ and not the actual locations, and so it is safe to delete them).

3. Add or remove shortcuts as desired. (A quick way to access your folders, so you can ‘drag and drop’ them, is to ‘expand’ the folders list.)

To continue my example, I will delete (or, drag to the Recycle bin) the shortcuts in the main pane: Music, Public, and Searches (as I don’t use ’em ever).

For some reason.. (a “Windows Quirk”) the ‘Public’ folder tried to re-appear, so I ‘deleted’ it a second time.. to make it ‘stick’..
I then located the two folders I most use (Desktop and Downloads)

4. Right-click on the folder you wish to add, and drag it into the main ‘pane’, let go (release the click) and choose Add shortcut here.


Your changes should take effect immediately, as you can see by the new icons in my sidebar.

(Yes, Desktop is there twice now.. but my change is the icon on top, which means it will always show, even if my dialog box is scrunched down to tiny size)

If you make mistakes, or just want to go back to the standard (aka ‘default’) list, repeat Step 1, but choose Restore Default Favorite Links.

Today’s quote:People are always blaming their circumstances for what they are. I don’t believe in circumstances. The people who get on in this world are the people who get up and look for the circumstances they want, and, if they can’t find them, make them.” ~ G.B. Shaw

Copyright 2007-2012 © “Tech Paul” (Paul Eckstrom). All Rights Reserved.


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All we really have, in the end, are our stories.
Make yours great ones. Ones to be proud of.

November 8, 2012 Posted by | advice, computers, how to, Microsoft, PC, tech, tweaks, Vista, Windows, Windows 7, Windows 8 | 2 Comments

Most Common Question?

This past weekend I was put in a situation where a whole bunch of “average computer users” could ask me any computer question.

From this, I discovered a theme. Nobody understands Updates, and everybody is *very annoyed* by how frequently they are interrupted by various “an update is available” ‘pop opens’. (One guy said, “every single time I sit at the computer!” ¹)
A disturbingly large percentage were proud of the fact they they had “solved” this annoyance by learning how to turn off automatic updating.

No surprise: (roughly) that same large percentage admitted they had let their “Norton”/”McAfee” expire – and felt subscriptions were borderline extortion. (No.. they had not installed a free AV. They just close the pop open nag.)

If I have just described you, in any way, please read the “Real Life” story below. I wrote it back when I was new at this: before I discovered that people cannot read for content, and when they see too many words, or block paragraphs, they click away as fast as they can.

Here’s why I really, really hate digital evil doers. I received queries from some folks who discovered that some of their files had mysteriously vanished (in one case, all of their files) and they wanted to know what to do to get them back.
What had happened to them was they had visited (or been redirected to, in a type of attack similar to pharming) a malicious website. This website downloaded code that took advantage of an unpatched vulnerability in Windows and executed a script that deleted random files… and then emptied the Recycle bin. Files, gone.

How this profited the owner of the malicious website, or even gave him/her any joy or satisfaction, I simply cannot fathom. This attack doesn’t steal, nor does it turn your machine into a zombie in his botnet. It is spite, pure and simple. Unmitigated meanness.
There is a certain.. segment of geeks/hackers who feel that many people are too stupid to own computers, who haven’t a clue how to use or protect them, and that these folks deserve whatever bad things happen to their PCs. Vanity and arrogance!
That is why I do this six-days-a-week labor of love, and bring you the tips, advice, and information posted here. So far I have posted 80 1,650+ how-to’s with 60 100 topic ‘tags’. With God’s help, I will continue to help you combat these bad guys for many, many more days to come.

Tip(s) of the day: Don’t be vulnerable.
1) Make sure your machine has all the latest patches and Updates. Using exploits of known vulnerabilities is the main avenue Evil Doers use to do their mischief. The reason this works is that so many people are using old versions of Windows and/or not patching via Microsoft Update. Fortunately, it is easy to set Windows to automatically download Updates for you.

Click on Start >Control Panel >Security Center.
seccntr1.jpg

Click on Automatic Updates under “Manage security settings for:” (Or, right-click on My Computer (Computer in Vista), select (click) Properties and then the Automatic Updates tab.)

au.jpg

Make sure the top radio button is selected and set the times to “everyday” and an hour when you know your machine will be powered on. Finish by clicking on “Apply”.

2) Avoid malicious websites. Since the website warning tool built into IE 7 causes very slow performance, I recommend downloading a tool like McAfee’s SiteAdvisor, or the Netcraft toolbar. (Both work on Firefox, too.) These are primarily anti-phishing tools, and the bad guys are constantly posting new poisoned websites (one reliable sources says “An average of 11,906 total new malicious websites were detected daily in August.” {my italics}), so these warning tools are not foolproof — but are an excellent addition to your security arsenal: if they turn red and advise you not to continue to the website, don’t.

3) Use a firewall and make sure your antivirus and anti-spyware tools are up to date. I have posted many articles on these topics. Click on a word in my Tag Cloud to see just these articles.

4) Windows is not the only software/program that has exploitable vulnerabilities. Make sure you’re using the automatic update setting on every program that offers it to look for newer versions. Also use the online vulnerability assessor at Secunia to scan your system for out of date applications. The results will include links to the newer versions, should it find any, and tell you how to fix the vulnerabilities it finds.

I was able to help these folks recover their deleted files with common undelete programs. If you read my article on why deleted isn’t really deleted, recently reposted as a holiday edition, you are already aware of how to do this should this malicious and dastardly attack befall you. Keep reading for another free undelete tool.

Today’s free link: Pandora Recovery is a program for undeleting files on NTFS partitions. You should download this (or a similar) program before you actually need it, as installing it could very well happen on the area you’re trying to recover.
If you are in a situation such as the folks who triggered this article, and you don’t already have an undelete tool installed, use an online scanner/recovery tool such as Softperfect File Recovery.

Orig post: 09/10/07

¹ Of course. He was simply closing the pop open ‘notification’ balloon, and only delaying the prompt. Either install or dismiss (answer ‘no thanks’) or you will be nagged until you do.

You’re welcome and, have a great day everybody!

Copyright 2007-2012 © “Tech Paul” (Paul Eckstrom). All Rights Reserved.


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February 27, 2012 Posted by | advice, computers, Internet, security | 2 Comments

How To Customize Your Save/Open Shortcuts Sidebar

Whenever you Open or Save a file in Windows, a standard ‘dialog box’ appears, which has shortcut locations on the left “sidebar”. You can easily customize these locations to add or remove folders/places to best suit your personal usage habits.

For example, I never use the “Public” folder, nor do I do music on my PC (other than listen to Spotify), and I cannot recall ever, in decades of using a computer, wanting to Save As something to my recent searches list — why have those in my sidebar?
I do however, have certain ‘go to’ locations I would like see listed..

Here is the how-to tutorial for customizing the shortcuts:

1. Open a dialog box (either a Save As or Open dialog will work).
2. Right click on some white space in the locations on the left pane and select Open Favorite Links Folder. (or navigate to: “C:\Users\your User name\Links”.)

You will now see the “default” shortcuts listed (these are ‘shortcuts to’ and not the actual locations, and so it is safe to delete them).

3. Add or remove shortcuts as desired. (A quick way to access your folders, so you can ‘drag and drop’ them, is to ‘expand’ the folders list.)

To continue my example, I will delete (or, drag to the Recycle bin) the shortcuts in the main pane: Music, Public, and Searches (as I don’t use ’em ever).

For some reason.. Public tried to re-appear, so I ‘deleted’ it a second time.. to make it ‘stick’..
I then located the two folders I most use (Desktop and Downloads)

4. Right-click on the folder you wish to add, and drag it into the main ‘pane’, let go (release the click) and choose Add shortcut here.


Your changes should take effect immediately, as you can see by the new icons in my sidebar.

(Yes, Desktop is there twice now.. but my change is the icon on top, which means it will always show, even if my dialog box is scrunched down to tiny size)

If you make mistakes, or just want to go back to the standard (aka ‘default’) list, repeat Step 1, but choose Restore Default Favorite Links.

Today’s quote:Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul.” ~ John Muir

Copyright 2007-2011 © “Tech Paul” (Paul Eckstrom). All Rights Reserved.


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January 9, 2012 Posted by | advice, computers, file system, how to, Microsoft, PC, software, tech, tweaks, Vista, Windows 7 | , , , | Leave a comment

How To Free Up Space On Your Computer (and Make It Run ‘Better’)*

And Some Saturday Fun, Too.

The simple and handy Disk Cleanup Tool has been a part of Windows since Windows 95. Today I am going to demonstrate how to use it, and explain why you should.

Tip of the day: Use the Disk Cleanup tool to — in a single step — free up disk space, empty your Recycle bin, “compress” old files, and remove the “temporary” Internet files that your machine picks up while browsing and downloading (improving your privacy/security); and, optionally, remove unused Windows “components” and installed programs.

If that sounds like lot a lot, it is. And it surprises me that Microsoft buries this useful tool under a series of menus — it would make sense to me to have a “one-button clean up” icon in Quick Launch, or on the desktop,.. or in the Start Menu.

As with most Windows items, there’s five or six different methods for getting to the same place, but the route I take is to open My Computer (just “Computer” in Vista/Windows 7) which is usually found by clicking the Start button.

mypc.jpg

Locate, and right-click on your hard drive icon, which typically is labeled “Local Disk (C:)”, and then click on the “Properties” menu selection as shown above.

Now the hard drive’s Properties window will open to the “General” tab, which regular readers of this series will recognize, as shown below.

props.jpg

Click the “Disk Cleanup” button, and a window will open that shows the progress as the tool scans your drive for files that it can safely remove for you…

calc.jpg

When the scan is finished, Disk Cleanup will present you with a list of the results –by category – which will show you the amount of space you can recover. This list of categories is selectable via checkboxes, and some are selected for you by default.

dc_opts.jpg

Accepting the defaults and clicking “OK” is fine, but you can modify it for greater space savings. This list includes all the files Windows says it’s safe to remove, and so, conceivably, you could place a check in all the checkboxes without hurting your machine or deleting important “system” files. But, I recommend that you do not select “Hibernation files” (if it appears on the list) nor “Catalog files for the Content Indexer”, nor Office installer files (“setup log files”).

In the screenshot above, I have clicked on “Offline Webpages” and placed a check in its checkbox, because I don’t use offline Webpages. (Note the “View” button: this allows you to see what is going to be removed.. if you’re the curious sort.)
When you’re finished making your selections (or, going with the defaults), click “OK”.

rusure.jpg

Don’t let this scare you. Click “Yes”. .

prog.jpg

Disk Cleanup will briefly show you that it’s working, and then return you to the hard drive Properties window. In my case, I will have cleaned 117,472 thousand bytes of useless files from my machine. The general rule of thumb is that you run this tool once a week for good hard drive health.

You are now done removing and compressing. But the Disk Cleanup tool allows you to get rid of more stuff you don’t use. There is a second tab, called “More Options”.

moreopts.jpg

Here you can click links (buttons) that will allow you to remove Windows “components” (such as IE, and the fax service), installed programs, and System Restore Points.
My advice on the last — System Restore — is to not save disk space here. Let System Restore itself handle removing the oldest Restore Points, which it does automatically.

The middle button takes you to Add/Remove Programs. The most effective way to give yourself more hard drive space, speed up your PC’s performance, and reduce your machine’s overhead is to uninstall programs that you never use. Forget “optimizer” programs, use this instead.

The Components button takes you to a sub-menu of Add/Remove Programs. Again, you probably don’t need to fool around here… so my General Advice is to ignore the More Options tab; but, it won’t hurt you to look around, and I’ve fulfilled the promise of the title of this article.

* Orig post: 11/7/07

Saturday fun: A reader wrote in and reminded me that, yes, while Mike Meyers is, indeed, “silly”, one should not forget that perhaps there is a “silly”-ier man on the scene: Jim Carrey. Though he has a large body of work, when I think of him, I do so (first) not as a pet detective, but in a skit on SNL.. which started a series of skits.. maybe you remember ..

While someone else wrote in with a vote for Mr. Bean…

Enjoy your weekend, everybody!

And I salute you if you were geeky enough to have noticed that the disk pictured was a 10GB model. Kinda hard to believe there were such things.. my phone has more storage than that! (Here at T4E Headquarters, we use “geek” as a compliment.)

Copyright 2007-2011 © “Tech Paul” (Paul Eckstrom). All Rights Reserved.


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July 23, 2011 Posted by | advice, computers, file system, how to, Microsoft, PC, performance, software, tech, Vista, Windows, Windows 7, XP | , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments